In his latest review the FoodboombloggerWest Ron W writes of his extraordinary dining at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry on a recent visit to Napa Valley. Keller is an American Institution which of course places him under constant scrutiny. Almost always there is praise and like most institutions Keller’s Empire is subject to attack. Criticisms of Keller from the minority community raise issues about the absence of Blacks in Keller’s businesses and in the upscale dining in general. Now some in the food world have been critical about Keller’s tone deaf response to their beef’s. A tempest in a teapot. You be the judge. And read on to enjoy Ron W’s always funny and splendid review of Keller’s hometown “joint” The French Laundry.
Want a 3 hour orgasm? That could be the entire review. I have summited Everest and walked on the culinary Moon.
The evening could be defined as enhanced elegance. Soft muted tones surround you, no Blue Cheer track, it is library quiet so as to not disturb the dining bliss and wa. I have eaten in louder mausoleums. There is nothing to distract you from the whispered descriptions of what is about to amaze you. Just the hushed oohs and ahs as the waiters un-dome a mini cloche revealing a sculpted slice of veal.
I was escorted to a tiny room upstairs. It had the rich feel of a first class Pullman car of yesteryear.
TFL is ingredient and technique driven. It is fantasy food as works of art, edible Faberge eggs, Galle perfume bottles, treasures and pleasures beyond my description – a sublimely understated elegant experience. To my mind it has no equal.
The Staff: Stuffy and pretentious? Nope. All top professionals. Yup. They will play the table and add to the evening’s magic. Not a blink when I quipped about paying with my EBT coupons (food stamps). We had enjoyable Emily leading a squadron of squeaky clean, bright, intelligent, intuitive army ants anticipating every question, or wish and not a brat with a tat in the bunch.
The Vibe: Like who goes there? It is where the Eagles land. (I am an undocumented Eagle). .05% of the Masters of the Universe. Dinner for two is nearly $1,000 (give or take a few Euros) if you act responsibly with the wine list.
The Bar Program: They have spirits for those who can’t enjoy a meal without two fingers of Macallan 46. The wine list is larger than the Library of Congress. Whistle at the Somm and yell “Bring it, Bro”. Okay, don’t whistle, maybe just snap your fingers.
The Food: You’ve arrived. The menu is at the whim and caprice of the kitchen first thing in the early AM. So, what I had, you may not get except for the Salmon Tartar in a Black Sesame Tuile (which Wolfgang Puck hijacked) and Oysters and Pearls. I wanted to flick my Gene Simmons tongue into the mini cup of baby bivalves and Tapioca beads.
However, stop yourself from doing so as you’ll need your tongue for the entire dinner and by the end it will be off its hinges.
The White Asparagus Soup with mini Sesame Epi was wildly delicious, but you should have seen the waiter’s face when I asked for Tapatio.
There was a Monkfish moment with micro vegetables plucked from the TFL secured garden. Not even the slugs and snails can get past the security system. This came with a tiny Spinach Leaf ball encasing a tinier Fish Mousse ball like a set of nesting Russian dolls.
An individual baby Abalone wrenched from its mother’s grasp was served on Fava Beans nestled in Saffron Sauce and crowned with a removable crust of Cornstarch/Flour, Egg White, Caper, and Parmesan like a Derby hat or the top on your Merced.
All of sudden there was a Bread course consisting of a spiral cornet of Cocoa laced flaky swirls along with butter from one of 9 cows giving their all just for TFL. Ain’t nothing from Kirkland here.
Emily, the Food Fairy taking care of biz spiffed me a Morel laying out on top of a tublet of White Grits just like Kim Kardashian on the sand in Puerto Vallarta. (Is the that two tublets?) The Morel had winked at me from the Vegetarian Tasting Menu. I ordered the manly menu and out it came anyway because this place is special and they make you feel that way too. Morels come in two styles. Perfection from the forest floor or a used gym sock. Mine was still warm and soft from Sleeping Beauty cuddling it.
The Medallion of Rabbit came next wrapped in Bacon with a Pea and Tomato Fritter all afloat in Rabbit Jus with Currents and young Italian Olive Oil. This ain’t Rachel Ray food. I ate this rabbit faster than Elmer Fudd could get off a round.
Rounding the club house turn and into the stretch out came the Wagyu Beef…and a Racklet of Lamb. They would both fit in the palms of your hand like Chichuahua puppies, but it was just right as by this time you are slappin’ the mat and begging to stop the fight.
Then came the sleeper. Half a Gougere topped with shaved Walnut and resting in a wading pool of melted artisanal Goat cheese. A lip licker for sure. Just give me a row of these and the check and I would still be on my knees giving them a full Swami.
Dessert: This was the Chinese Army. They just kept coming. Ice Creams, Sorbets, Candied Pineapple Pavlova, Donut Holes, Fudge Constructions, Mini Macarons, a cigar box of Truffles, Cookies, Candies, an Easter Basket and thankfully, stretcher bearers.
TFL is in it’s own Universe. They don’t reinvent anything. They invent everything and besides you get a monogrammed clothes pin. How cool is that?